The research of the facility covers the evolution, physiology, ecology of any aquatic animal
WSU researchers received a grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust that will fund renovations to Eastlick Hall, including a new aquatic research facility and the installation of Aquatic Phenomena System (APS) technology.
The facility has submitted a grant proposal to the trust in November 2019 to The Trust, which is a non-profit organization located in the Pacific Northwest. Eleven different researchers were on the proposal, and it was approved in June 2020, said Erica Crespi, the grant’s principal investigator and associate professor of biology at the College of Arts and Sciences.
The researchers also submitted a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation in August so that the institution could fund undergraduate summer internships and independent research, Crespi said.
Research within the facility will cover any aquatic animal such as invertebrates, marine invertebrates and freshwater invertebrates. It will include research ranging from evolution to physiology and ecology, Crespi said.
“It is a very unique installation,” she said. “There are a lot of facilities like these for zebrafish, and then we have specific facilities for trout and salmon. But the great thing about this place is that it is flexible enough to research any aquatic animal.
An ongoing research project at the facility is discovering how increased salts in freshwater systems affect amphibians – this is Crespi’s primary focus.
The increase in salt is due to runoff from de-icing salts used on the roads. Rising sea levels and other industrial wastes create salts, which make the aquatic environment stressful for amphibians. The study will examine how differences in salinity affect the growth of amphibians, she said.
One of the main goals of the facility is to understand how climate change and its associated impacts alter an aquatic animal’s ability to engage in basic behaviors in its environment, said Allison Coffin, co-principal investigator of the grant and neuroscientist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at WSU Vancouver.
Coffin is currently leading a collaborative study with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that will focus on raising healthier chinook salmon. The research will aim to understand how the hatchery conditions of chinook salmon along the Columbia River Gorge impact their ability to orient and swim properly.
“Although the facility is based in Pullman, some of the equipment… is relatively portable,” she said.
During its research, Coffin intends to borrow equipment from the establishment.
“Salmon is finicky. They really like a lot of cold water with a ton of oxygen and a good flow of water, ”she said. “And so we think it will be easier to temporarily transport equipment to the Vancouver campus for a few weeks.”
The facility plans to advertise to other institutions in the Pacific Northwest, such as the University of Idaho, to allow them to use the facility’s equipment, which would increase the number of ‘users, Crespi said.
The facility also plans to create a website and have laboratories. Laboratories have already been conducted at the facility with students in comparative physiology and animal development, she said.